Karen Ann Quinlan (Scranton, Pennsylvania , 29 of March of 1954 – Municipality Morris , November to June of 1985 ) was an American girl who fell into a coma by following ingestion of alcohol and barbiturates , at 21 years old, suffering a Irreversible brain damage. It was maintained alive in artificial form until 1985, after a long legal process initiated by his parents to allow him to die. His case opened a debate on euthanasia , and provided important questions on issues such as bioethics , and civil rights .
The tragedy of Karen
In April 1975 , the young Karen A. Quinlan began a strict diet in order to wear a dress she had recently bought to show off at a party. On April 15, having eaten nothing except a few slices of bread in a 48-hour period, he attended a party at a friend’s house.
During the course of the party, after consuming an overdose of alcohol and Valium (a tranquilizer), Quinlan told his friends that he felt dizzy and went to lie down in his friend’s bed. Later it was found by those who attended the party, unconscious and without breathing. She was rushed to a hospital , where she was diagnosed with prolonged anoxia due to failure of the autonomic system and respiratory failure; Was put on an artificial respirator in the hospital. However, the brain damage was such that it remained in a vegetative state .
The cause of respiratory failure was not specified, although her mother said that the medical diagnosis was that she fell asleep or unconscious, and drowned with her own vomit. This could also have happened because of the combination of alcohol, barbiturates and self-imposed food deprivation.
After a few months, her parents requested that she be removed from the respirator that kept her alive, but the hospital staff refused.
In 1976, the Quinlan took their case to the Supreme Court of New Jersey , which authorized the parents’ decision. When she was removed from the respirator, Quinlan surprised the world by continuing to breathe unassisted, fueling the remote possibility of recovery, being artificially nourished for nine more years.
He lived in a persistent vegetative state until her death from pneumonia in 1985; Weighed only 36 kilos.
His case served to open a debate to the question about the moral lawfulness of the rejection or limitation of certain medical interventions in the current state of technological development, attracting the interest of public opinion towards this problem, and highlighting the need to identify the Moral criteria that legitimize the decisions to limit medical therapies in certain circumstances, as well as on the consumption of medicines in unmedicated form.
This case was relevant because, as a result of the judicial sentence, the hospital ethics committees were constituted for the first time in history. [ Citation needed ]